Before the establishment of the VFL in 1897 they came from the VFA and South Australia, then after the resurrection of the game in Sydney in 1903 visiting teams came thick and fast: Geelong, South Melbourne, Williamstown, Carlton, Fitzroy, Collingwood, North Adelaide, Norwood and the list goes on and on.
You can view what teams did visit and how they performed up to 1930 by clicking here and search under ‘Advanced Search’.
On most occasions the visitors left the gate with the NSW Football League to further enhance the game in Sydney. But, the league battled. There was never any real foresight, planning and strategies put in place to develop and grow the game in the early days. They merely survived from year to year.
One club that did visit Sydney on four occasions was the Melbourne Football Club.
They played NSW or a Combined Sydney side on four separate occasions, winning one and losing three, but two of those were within a very close margin.
The game they crowed about was the win in 1911. NSW won the game 14-12 (96) to 10-14 (74) and didn’t the local press pump up the win. One headline read: Victors a Trifle Superior All Round, and Home Team Wins Brilliantly but the best read: NSW Whips Melbourne. Were victories against these interstate teams all that rare – The Answer: Yes.
In this particular game though, “New South Wales at no period looked like being beaten. In every stage of the game they appeared the better side, whether in the air, on the ground, or in general all-round play. It was a well-deserved victory” – so one newspaper reported.
The game was played before a crowd of 8,000 at the old Erskineville Oval which was reported to be in a fair condition. New South Wales had replaced Rush, Hussey, and Dunn with Vockler, Finch, and Bingham from the team which was defeated by the VFL a few weeks before by 16 points. Melbourne, on the other hand were without Coy and Haines.
Compliments for NSW’s win lasted little because they were cleaned up by the Carlton Club only two weeks later by over six goals. However in the same month they recorded an impressive three goals win over a VFL eighteen, also at Erskineville Oval.
NSW played one more game against Melbourne and that was in 1937 when they were severely outclassed 17-32 (134) to 8-8 (56). Ron Barassi’s father, also named Ron, played for the Demons in this match. Ron Senior lost his life in WWII.
|5-11-1911||9-6 (60)||Melbourne FC||9-18 72)||Loss|
|28-7-1823||14-12 (96)||Melbourne FC||10-14 (74)||Win|
|7-8-1937||17-32 (134)||Melbourne FC||8-8 (56)||Loss|
* behinds were not counted in the score at that time.
When these interstate teams played in Sydney it was like an awe fell over the city. The media played it up; newspaper photos showed the players at training and during the matches but as the VFL and other leagues grew stronger and their football more the standard grew further apart.
Nevertheless, local supporters and players talked up the code as if it were the only game of football on earth.
The last time a VFL club played NSW at the SCGwas in 1980 when Richmond defeated the locals 19-19 (121) to 14-16 (100) in what was a pre-season cup series.
The Swans did play NSW on the RAS Showground Moore Park in about 1989 and left the Ron Thomas coached side standing. Unfortunately the score was not recorded.
In the early part of the last century, NSW or Combined Sydney would be involved in up to nine representative games a year. Since the advent of the national competition however, these interstate visits are now few and far between, save the odd one against Queensland and/or the ACT. Despite this it is interesting to recount these games, the players, umpires and details and we are happy to report that we have recorded all first grade NSW representatives matches from 1881-1930 with more on the drawing board.
It is our aim to have the 1930s decade of rep games included in our list by the end of the year.